Saturday, 8 December 2012

Beef fillet - pho and salad

When Paul and I eat steak, it isn't generally fillet. Fillet is tender, of course, but that tenderness comes at the expense of good flavour. We'll choose something a little chewier, but with a beefier flavour, like onglet, rump or ribeye every time.

But Paul is working away from home again, so I am back to making the most special and delicious meals I can come up with on the weekends to make up for the fast-food dross he is mostly consuming during the week. Last week, I decided to welcome him home with a big bowl of pho, that fragrant, warming Vietnamese soup that I was quite sure he hadn't been able to get in Aberdeen.

In Sydney, we used to be able to buy very thinly sliced beef for making pho bo. You can probably get it here too, but I've never seen it. I decided that buying some beef fillet and slicing it myself was the way forward.

Of course, the other reason why we wouldn't buy fillet very often even if it was our favourite is that it is bloody expensive. That meat was going to have to work really hard for me.
Two beautiful 250g fillet steaks.
I equipped myself with two 250g fillet steaks. Because the beef for pho is cut so thinly I knew that one steak would feed both of us generously. I decided to cure the other steak and serve it like carpaccio, making it stretch for two people as well.
In the cure
Cured Beef

250g fillet steak
2 tbs coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 knife-tip ground cloves
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black peppercorns
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp brown sugar

Mix the spices together and press into all sides of the beef. Place in a non-reactive container, and refrigerate for 3-4 days, pouring off the liquid that collects daily. To serve, wipe off the spices and slice thinly. Serve with salad - will serve 2-4 people.

Sliced beef piled on top of the other ingredients, waiting for the hot broth
The most important thing about pho is starting with a good broth. I had a rich beef stock left from braising some short ribs, which I then reduced further with chunks of ginger, spring onions, star anise and cinnamon.

I put the piece of beef in the freezer for an hour to make it easier to slice thinly.

In each bowl I piled rice noodles, bean shoots, mint, coriander and basil, topping it off with slices of chilli, spring onions, the sliced beef and wedges of lime.

Just before serving I corrected the seasoning of the broth with fish sauce, lime juice and a bit of sugar and brought it back to a rapid boil, then divided it between the bowls. Then, as we swished the pieces of meat in the broth, we added chilli sauce and hoisin to our bowls to taste.

Delicious, fresh and comforting.
The meat starting to cook in the broth
On Monday (i.e when the meat had been in the cure for 3 days) I decided to serve it. Only problem being that it was very, very cold on Monday and I didn't want an entirely cold salad for lunch. So, after wiping the curing spices off the meat I seared it in a very hot frying pan (with the windows open, the extractor fan on and the kitchen door shut) for about a minute on each side, then sliced it and piled it onto dressed leaves. Absolutely divine. The cure did its work, so the meat didn't taste raw (I prefer my steak cooked medium, so believe me when I say this!) and it was insanely tender. I don't like the phrase "melt in the mouth" but this really was. With some bread and butter or some boiled potatoes this could have served four of us instead of just two. Although it was too delicious to share.

Beautiful beef. You can see how the curing intensified the colour


The Cat's Mother said...

Lovely use of the fillet. I'm sure it is not eye fillet they use when I have pho at Darra.

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Looks great. A good beef pho is so restoring.

Mary Bergfeld said...

What an interesting post! The salad looks wonderful. I wanted to get back to you with the date of St. Lucia Day. It is the 13th of December. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Joanne said...

You definitely put that fillet to good use in the pho! Way to let it shine.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Mother - I am quite sure that is true.

Leaf - isn't it?

Mary - of course it is! Don't know why I had it muddled with St Nicholas' Day.

Joanne - thanks!

Barbara said...

It's such a tender cut of beef, but you're right, not as much flavor. You've certainly added that with your rub. Looks delicious!

underthebluegumtree said...

Love, love, LOVE pho bo and your version looks gorgeous. I'm salivating now :-)

Cuisine de Provence said...

What can I say? YUM!


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